A former defense attorney for Phil Spector was on June 18 declared in contempt of court, after refusing to testify that she witnessed a defense expert in the music producer's murder case pick up possible evidence.
Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler ordered the attorney, Sara Caplan, to be jailed until she testifies. He did, however, stay the order to allow for an immediate appeal before she was incarcerated.
With no jury present, prosecutor Alan Jackson questioned her about her testimony that defense forensic expert Henry Lee picked up a small white object with tweezers and put it in a vial at the scene where actress Lana Clarkson was found dead of a gunshot wound. Such an item was never turned over to the prosecution.
A weeping Caplan repeatedly refused to answer the prosecutor, citing attorney-client privilege and constitutional reasons. The judge had already found that attorney-client privilege did not apply in issues of evidence destruction, and that her testimony on the issue at two previous hearings effectively waived the privilege.
Lana Clarkson was fatally shot through the mouth in the foyer of Spector's home on February 3, 2003. Spector's defense contends she shot herself. Caplan, a respected defense attorney with 25 years' experience, was among members of Spector's defense team who examined the scene the following day.
In a special May 3 hearing, Caplan said she pointed out a fingernail-sized white object to Lee, who picked it up and put it in a vial. She said she did not know what the object was or what later happened to it. Lee later testified he did not pick up such an item, but on May 23 the judge made a formal finding to the contrary.